DocumentariesAfter looking at a variety of different documentaries, we found out the main codes and conventions of a documentary. We needed to find out these so that we could incorporate them into our own documentary to make it look professional and realistic.A few of the main features of documentaries that we found were: Formal Interviews Vox-pops Rule of thirds SoundI am going to look at all of the codes and conventions of real documentaries and then show how we used or challenged these ideas in our own documentary and explain why we chose to do this.
Documentary Types (Bill Nichols)Bill Nichols introduced the idea that there are different types of documentaries. Each different documentary falls into different categories and types depending on the approach they take, how information is shown and the characteristics that the documentary has. The different types are expository, observational, performative, participatory and reflexive. Expository documentaries are where the documentary addresses the audience directly and tries to convey a message or argue a point. The observational mode is where the documentary has no narrator and the viewer is left to watch the footage and make up their own mind on what they saw without someone telling them what to think. The performative mode includes a narrator that tells a story and usually is personal as they are telling you what happened to them. The participatory mode is where the narrator will take part in their own documentary (can be as an onscreen narrator) and will express their own views. The reflexive mode is usually when the documentary will draw attention to the fact that it is a documentary.I believe that our documentary is mostly from the expository mode as we have an off-screen narrator that is explaining what we think but does not necessarily tell the viewer what to think, but does give an indication to what the information and interviews show. We also are trying to give across the point that not all teens are the same as some will be healthy and exercise often and then there will be completely opposite teens who are actually very unhealthy.You could also say that there are some aspects of the observational mode in our documentary as we show interviews and some background footage of people eating and do not directly tell the viewer what they should think about we are showing but instead allow them to make up their own minds on what they see. However, we do use a voiceover as a Bill Nichols narrator which goes against the observational mode.
Target Audience Our target audience was mainly for collegestudents as this was where we got a lot of footage and weinterviewed people of this age group. However, thedocumentary could also attract school-aged students andpossibly university which would therefore make the targetaudience expand to young teens to early twenties. People from any background, age and gendercan relate to our topic as it is health, which is a veryimportant aspect of everyone’s lives. We have also put alarge part of the documentary about eating as it issomething that everyone can relate to. The other part of thedocumentary is focused on exercise as it is well known thatboth exercise and healthy eating are key to leading ahealthy lifestyle. In the documentary we got vox-pops with lots ofdifferent people so that we had a mix of genders and races.This meant that the documentary would not just be aimedat one group of people because our target audience iscollege students as a whole.
Formal InterviewsWhen we were filming, we had to take into account camera angles and framing. This is so that we use thecorrect shots for the different type of interviews and for other parts of the documentary. We also had tothink about other conventions such as the banner that states who the expert is and what their occupationis.Formal interviews usually have the interviewee to one side of the screen (rule of thirds) and are a medium close up. In our interviews we tried to use a medium close up and keep the expert mainly to one side of the screen to make sure it looked professional and looked like something you’d see in a real documentary.‘Supersize Me’ makes use of expert interviews (image on the right), and when compared to the interview from our documentary (left image), you can see that both interviews have the expert on the right of the screen but the interview from ‘Supersize Me’ uses a closer shot.Formal interviews usually have a banner or some text at the bottom of the screen with the expert’s name and their occupation. We made a banner with a black background and white text that was transparent look. The text was in Arial so that it is clear and easy to read and when you compare the two screen shots of the documentaries, our banner looks as professional as the text shown on ‘Supersize Me’
Vox-popsVox Pops are when you interview the public to get their opinion on a subject. We used these in our documentary was they allow the viewer to see what the public thinks on the topic that is being covered (in this case, teenagers and health).In a vox-pop, the set up can be very different to a formal interview as vox-pops can use a handheld camera and can have a slight angle to the shot (normally a low angle to connote power), unlike a formal interview where the camera has to be still and level.Our documentary had many different vox pops (most were medium shots) and when compared to the vox-pops from ‘Supersize Me’, the camera angles and shots are similar and therefore I believe that our vox-pops look realistic and professional.
Rule of thirds When filming our formal interviews, we took the rule of thirds into consideration as there is research that shows that viewers eyes are normally attracted to the four parts of the screen where the lines cross. Therefore we wanted the person from the formal interview to be on one of these intersections so that the viewer will be looking at them. By doing this we would have to put the expert to one side of the screen. This would leave space on the other side of the shot but we made sure that we had a suitable background that linked in with the experts profession and the topic they are talking about (for example, the principal was filmed in his office with his computer and desk in the background). Also the banners featured in the bottom left corner of the interviews and were close to the bottom left intersect of the thirds and therefore will be a part of the screen that the viewers eyes will be drawn to. This will allow the audience to know who is being interviewed and what connection to the topic they have (e.g. Exercise – Sports Activities Co-ordinator).
Research into topicWe started off our research into the topic by creating a questionnaire that we knew were from our target audience. This questionnaire included questions that would allow us to see how much they already knew so that we could then make sure that we only use information that is new to them so that we do not bore them by repeating things that they already knew.Our main research into the topic was split up between the group as we gave each person an area to look at. We would then gather information about these areas and come back together to see what information would be best to use and include in the documentary.Most of the information that we got was from search engines such as Google and from reliable sources such as BBC and NHS, so that we knew the information was correct.
Editing More editing is explained in Question 4 when explaining how we used media technologies. When editing our documentary we needed to make sure that all shots used were appropriate and looked like a real professional documentary. For example, in the expert interviews we added a banner to the bottom of the page to add the name and occupation of the expert. We also, cropped some of the shots so that parts of the background could not be seen. This allowed us to improve our framing and make sure that there were not unnecessary space in shot.We added transitions, such as cross dissolves onto the banner so that it appeared and disappeared with an effect and looked smoother and simply appearing and going. This also made it look more realistic and professional. In two parts of our documentary we blurred the footage in the background so that we could add text. The background footage we blurred was students walking through a hallway (in our title sequence) and a gym instructor teaching a student how to use some equipment. This relates to the information given on screen during the documentary and allowed us to add text over the top of the footage. We was not sure which type of blur would be the best to use so we tried a mixture until we got the effect that we though was best. The types of blur we used were defocus, soft focus and Gaussian blur.
Sound The main sound conventions that we followed were using a voiceover and including backing music. The voiceover was done by a female which differs from most documentaries as they usually have a male narrator. The backing music was upbeat and was mainly included the keep an upbeat feel to the documentary and keep the viewers interest. The music also connotes that the documentary is not supposed to be an alarming topic which could have been improved by making the music fit the topic better, as it is important and serious instead of being a more fun topic. Due to filming different interviews on different days with different equipment, some of the interviews and vox-pops were much louder than some of the others. Therefore we had to go through each clip individually and change the sound levels to make sure they were equal and there was no sudden jumps in sound. This was done by dragging the bar on top of the sound up or down to increase/decrease the levels.When creating our radio trailer we noticed that some of the sound that we exported from the documentary was quiet. We resolved this problem by duplicating some of the tracks and playing them at the same time so that it was double the volume and it did not affect the quality of the clip. We also added an upbeat backing track to the documentary so that it kept the viewer interested. The voiceover needed to be louder than the background music but at a similar volume to the interviews, therefore we needed to monitor the sound levels carefully to make sure all interviews and the voiceover could be heard clearly.
Radio TrailerThe radio trailer has a clear structure to it which makes it easier to follow and understand. It uses clips from the interviews from the documentary and clearly links to what the documentary is actually about.The music in the background is the same as used in the documentary which keeps the tempo of the trailer fast and will keep the interest of the audience.The voiceover is a male voice and asks questions directly to the audience. This means that the audience are engaged and will automatically be interested. The voice used is clear which allows the audience to understand what he is saying.There are multiple tracks in the trailer (the voiceover, background music, clips from the documentary etc.). These tracks are all necessary as each part of voiceover is a question and the clips from the documentary are used to answer each individual question.All of the information about when the documentary is on TV and what channel it is on is at the end of the documentary as well as the title of the series. This is so that the audience know when they can watch the documentary if the trailer has caught their attention and made them interested in the series.
Magazine ArticleOur magazine article follows most of the conventions of a real magazine. We have included images to anchor the text as well as captions to the images to explain what the image is about and how it links to the series. The other ways that it follows the conventions are: The use of a block cap at the start of the text The main image (top left of the page) Captions Images Text MastheadThe magazine article could have been improved by making the colours link more to the topic (for example when talking about eating healthily, use green text or a green background. Also the main image could have related more to the topic as if it does not show clearly what the documentary is about.
Conclusion Overall I believe that our media products did follow conventions of real media texts. This is because we included the main aspects of the texts as they look realistic and although some improvements could be made, I am overall satisfied with how they all look.